Bartops, Grief, and Good Karma

All I want is to be at the Main Cup tomorrow night for jazz night. Recently I’ve been listening to a lot of Joe Bonamassa, and it just makes me want to go sit in on some live music that doesn’t require jumping, headbanging, or trying to impress anyone with my dancing. I just want to drink a beer and chat with people while listening to good music. And, funny enough, as much as I hated working jazz nights before, some of my more profound, appreciative-of-life moments happen on jazz nights as the music settles down.

Imagine this: you’re finally off your feet after a few hours of non-stop going, you slide into that tall chair, slough the bag off your shoulder, and one of your coworkers gives you your drink for free. The bartenders are very appreciative of the work you do, they give you a smile, try to make sure you’re okay and not exhausted, even though they still have another hour or so of work ahead of them. You have a sip of your drink, pull out your phone, and start to relax. In the background, the guitar is vibing to the constant rhythm of the drums, and you find yourself absentmindedly tapping your feet against the bar’s footrest. You look up, glance around at the buzz around you, the old regulars laughing, most of them already drunk, none of them paying attention to you (and you prefer it that way most of the time). The lights are a soothing yellow, Christmas lights still dangling from the beams. It’s cold outside, but you don’t have to worry about that yet. You wait for your coworkers to get off so they can join you, and you know they will. You don’t know what you’ll do tonight, if anything, but something almost always happens, be it heading to Bower’s or to another bar. You’re on the younger side of those who will join you, a fresh 21, but your coworkers don’t care. They include you on invitations to continue the party at their houses, tucked into the mountains 15 minutes away. Some of your favorite coworkers are in their thirties and have children, but they make time for you, they enjoy talking to you, and you can open up to them. They’re like mentors, not parents, but also friends. The whole scene is blissful.

That’s what I get to look forward to when I’m home. I like to romanticize, sure, but I think it helps me to be an appreciative person, to take in the little things, to notice and love them. I think that’s why I’ve been having such a good bout of karma recently, and I find it easier to smile at the sky, like my arms are so light I just want to reach to the clouds in celebration of being alive, of basking in a humid, cloudy day in March. I wouldn’t say I’ve found a vigor for life, but I’ve found an appreciation.

I will say, that bar held a couple important nights for me. Obviously, my first shift drink for turning 21. It’s where I “snuck” beer from Cliff during the Christmas party in an attempt to stay drunk (succeeded), it’s where I’ve made some of my closest friends, where I’ve networked many of my relationships. It’s where I’ve gained confidence in myself, in my communication skills. I’ve learned a lot about myself, about my coworkers, all around that bar.

I don’t mean for this to turn sad, but there’s something I’ve been reflecting on a lot lately that I feel I need to share, but I don’t know who to turn to. I know that whoever I told would be sad and sympathetic without knowing what to say, which is fine, that’s all I could ask of them. I just want to express it so someone will understand.

Another few important moments that happened at Main Cup included my cats. When we had to put my first cat down, on Thursday, October 2, 2014, I had to work almost immediately after – not a smart move on my end. I remember holding my little boy against my chest and just sobbing while my dad dug the grave. I have never cried this way in my life – not during movies, not when my sister left for college, not when I was cheated on. It was just bone-shakingly sad.

After we buried him, I went to work, trying not to cry. It was the first death I’d ever really had to deal with, and it was the cat I’d had since as long as I could remember (I was only a few months old when we got him), and he was mine. We bonded, he always slept with me, it was so sweet. My coworkers were nothing but sympathetic, and I think my being teary-eyed freaked them out a little because I never show that much emotion, or if I do it’s always happy. It was hard to go through, and I think part of me will always be with him, but it was nice to have my Main Cup family there.

This past September, my other cat passed away fairly unexpectedly. She was old, I think she got bit by something, and it was a long, painstaking ride for her. She seemed like she might pull through, but her meows were just haunting. I was headed home from college that Thursday to work and see her, help her if I could, be there if she passed.

Mom called me on my way home to tell me that she had passed the night before. It was such a dagger to the heart. She couldn’t have waited another day for me to be there. For me, it wasn’t selfishness; I was beside myself with the grief that I hadn’t been able to be with her when she went, as I was for my first cat. It still upsets me that she died alone, that I couldn’t be there.

So I went to work, plastered a smile on my face, tried not to think about it, tried not to cry when my coworkers gave me their sympathy hugs. It worked better than the first time. At the end of the shift, I sat at the bar and tried to put some of my feelings into a Facebook post, I think I may have also written about it on here somewhere, but I also didn’t want to be sobbing at the bar by myself while I waited for everyone else. My friends came and sat with me, and I forgot about it for a little while. They wanted to go out, and I just couldn’t put it off any longer – I needed to see my little girl.

I went home, tired from the shift, from the week, from crying in the car. The house was dark and quiet. I hung up my things, kicked off my shoes, and made my descent into the basement, where Mom told me she had wrapped the little one up in a blanket. I flicked on the lights, caught between feeling anxious and at peace (strangely enough). I think I was scared of seeing her.

I peeled back the blanket, and there she was, my best little girl, 16 years old. And I just sobbed again, silently this time. I couldn’t pick her up yet, so I just petted her, her body already cold and stiff. Cursing myself for not being able to be there for her in her final moments. I needed her to know she was loved. That I would miss her sleeping on my outstretched arms as her awkward sign of affection. It was nice to have that private moment. I found it beautiful and meaningful, no matter how much grief filled the air.

Now, with no pets, I feel like my Main Cup family is what I really have to look forward to when I return home. I’m blessed to have them in my life, to have their love and support.

Thank you for sharing such a personal moment with me. It’s cathartic for me to talk about it, to acknowledge the beauty. And this is just a casual reminder that if you are going to put your pets down, please for the love of god stay with them and let them know how much you love them.

Emanating love

 

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Solemn Joy

Break was over in a flash. Those 12 days flew by in a blink of an eye. I was genuinely sad that I would be returning to College Park so soon. I was rarely in my house long enough for me to be annoyed with it, I feel like I didn’t get a sufficient amount of time with my friends (though I got to see all of them in one break which was great — all it took was 12 days).

I took care of my friends animals, and it was wonderful to be surrounded by so much fur. They were all so loving, and having each of her cats purring on my chest gave me the joy of what I think a mother feels when her child falls asleep on her. I guess I’m more of a cat person, and that shouldn’t be a bad thing. I love both species so who cares.

Some unexpected turn of events occurred over break, some that shocked me to my core. My friend’s dad killed himself right before Christmas, and I can only explain it as horrifying for all. I was told right before one of my shifts, and all I could say was “oh my god.” It was so intense, so pure and terrifying. I thought I was going to cry, and I questioned why I would feel so strongly for a man I had only met once. Looking back on it, I think I was moreso crying for my friend. The heaviness in my heart as it yearned to be with him, to support him in such a devastating time.

Our friends bound together in support. Our coworkers put together baskets. Everyone I talked to either went to the viewing or the funeral.

It was incredibly solemn that Tuesday. Dressed in my mom’s black dress, because I didn’t pack any funeral clothes for my trip home. Why would I? My heels clicking through the church, sun trying to shine through the stained-glass windows, I sat with some of my closest friends, and I experienced something with them that I never thought I would have to. I watched as we all dealt with the grief. We all cried while trying not to cry. We listened as our friend delivered a strong, inspirational eulogy for his own father. We watched as Scott’s friends gave their speeches. It was a strange moment for me to watch grown men cry and learn that they cry like I do, that they can’t talk, they have to take sharp breaths, they have to stop and swallow that rock hard lump in their throats.

The entire time I sat in that church, I questioned. I’m not a fan of organized religion, though I believe in a higher power and I’m comfortable with calling it many names, including God. Is this how this man wanted his funeral to go? Was he really saved when the bible says suicide is a horrible sin? I tried not to get too philosophical, tried not to roll my eyes out of respect for this man and his family, my friend.

I questioned whether my friends were trying not to cry in the same way I was. I wondered whether one day we would be up there, delivering eulogies for our friends well before their time on this earth should have ended. As I sat wedged between Nick, Will, and Roeder, I wanted to hug them all. I wanted to touch them, hold their hands, hug them close, but I thought they might think I was being too emotional. Looking back, I should have done it. But I know that we were all trying to make it through without having an outburst or a panic attack.

When it was over, I could see Roeder’s red eyes, Will and I wiping our noses, sparing small smiles for each other, trying to revert to our natural, goofy states in a way that almost felt inappropriate. Nick remained dead-eyed. Sam (who performed a beautiful piano solo) and some others found us, all teary-eyed too. In that moment, I tried to be solemn out of respect, but I think it’s amazing the power of positive energy. How some people’s innate nature is to be happy, to make others laugh. I think it’s the most beautiful power in this world, to laugh and be happy even in the face of such devastation. In that moment it was nice to know that I have that power within me.

When we ventured to the basement for food, we all clung together, sitting together so tightly at those plastic tables that it almost felt like lunchtime in high school. A few of us didn’t say much, but it may have been the hardest I laughed all break. I wanted nothing more than to hold them all there, keep them so happy and lighthearted. And I hope that is a moment burned into my memory forever, when we were so young, too young to experience a death so close to our hearts, to our circle, and everything felt raw and desolate yet happy.

We found our friend, said our goodbyes. The rest of the day went by in a bit of a hollow blur. I cried to my sister afterward, still processing the day’s emotions. The rest of break went by without a hitch. We all kind of huddled closer together after that.

And now I’m back in College Park — too soon, I feel, but I look forward to the promise of Friday, when my friends will surround me again. My Spanish class isn’t the worst it could be (though I did study 233 words for my exam tomorrow). It’s nice to only focus on one class right now, and I might be in for a rude awakening come spring semester. I’m taking some time for myself. I’ve been doing yoga every day because I can’t bring myself to do more than 2-3 aerobic workouts a week right now.

This blog wasn’t exactly what I thought was going to happen, but it felt too important not to share. I’ll get back to you later.

So much love

Rest in Peace Scott